While we are on the subject of sex differences…
Females infected with HIV proceed to AIDS faster than their male counterparts. This is, ironically enough, one of the benefits of being a pre-menopausal female at work. As I explained earlier, there is a recognizable gradation in survival value between pre-menopausal females, males, and post-menopausal females based on reproductive capability. You can’t properly gestate a child for 9 months if you are dead. To this end there are several health benefits exclusive to the pre-menopausal female system.
Or rather, they would be benefits were it not for the nature of this virus. Now, in HIV’s defense, this is not actually of selective benefit to it. Viruses aren’t out to kill us and in fact doing so prevents them from going about their merry business of infecting more hosts. What happens is that the HIV latency period relies on its ability to go dormant in inactive immune cells, but in these female patients there is a generally higher level of immune activity. This means fewer inactive cells overall, fewer places for HIV to hide, yet unfortunately not enough immune activity to actually eradicate the infection. The end result is that the patient’s immune system takes more wear and tear than her male counterpart’s, the higher rate of cellular activity leads to higher viral activity, and she progresses to AIDS significantly faster.
Notably this sort of thing is also implicated in the higher rate of auto-immune disease in the female population.
Just as a note, you can probably expect a lot more HIV latency articles throughout the rest of the semester. Have just started research on it, I should be dredging up all kinds of interesting stuff from the literature.
Sources & Further Reading
- “The X-files in immunity: sex-based differences predispose immune responses.” Fish Nature Reviews Immunology 8 737-44 (2008)
- “Sex differences in longitudinal human immunodeficiency virus type 1 RNA levels among seroconverters.” Sterling, et al. Journal of Infectious Diseases 180 666-72
- “Sex differences in HIV-1 viral load and progression to AIDS.” Farzadegan, et al. Lancet 352 1510-14 (1998)